Obsession by Jean Guichard for Calvin Klein 1985


Post by Anne-Marie


“When one makes love, there is a certain scent we that give off. I think it’s very sensual – that’s the scent of Obsession.”
– Calvin Klein

Obsession was released in 1985 and by any measure is a mighty fragrance. It is so much more than the sum of its notes….

Obsession by Jean Guichard for Calvin Klein 1985

“Oh, the smell of it!”

Obsession Calvin Klein FragranticaPhoto Stolen Fragrantica

Fragrantica gives these featured accords:
Top: Green notes, mandarin, peach, basil, bergamot, lemon
Heart: Spices, coriander, sandalwood, orange blossom, jasmine, oakmoss, cedar, rose
Base: Amber, musk, civet, vanilla, vetiver, incense.

It’s the damp herbal first blast of Obsession that I adore. Yes, there are softer, easier things to come, but that dark, slightly bitter opening is for me, addictive. After that I get spices of course, although not the florals.

The base for me is mostly amber and vanilla, with incense keeping things cool and dry. The vanilla is far from being sweet and foodie – which is just how I like it. I wear the modern EDT, the stuff you can get for a song just about anywhere perfume is sold.

Obsession is usually classified as an oriental, but through its marketing, Obsession rejects conventional oriental fantasies and metaphors. We get no lacquered spice jars, no souks, no Buddhas or Indian princesses etc. Obsession does not weave sentimental fairy tales; it is about nothing but sex.

The early TV ads were directed by Richard Avedon and make you feel as if you have wandered on to the set of some weird modernist play. Everything is in monochrome, but clearly the scene is vibrant with sexual obsession. In one, an older man laments a young woman (played by South African model José Borain) who has left him (“Was it me? Did I somehow driver her away?”).

In another, that woman is the object of obsession for a beautiful teenage boy (“ … the whispers at my bedside … her arms … her mouth … her amber hair … and oh, the smell of it.”).


The early print ads were shot in Puerto Villata, Mexico, by Bruce Weber and feature, in blue sepia, two (or three) naked, entwined bodies.

Famously, Kate Moss also modelled for Obsession, but that came later, in 1993 when she was 17. Shot by Mario Sorrenti and still in monochrome, the location was a shack on the beach: “Just me and him and loads of film,” Moss later recalled. The ads speak to the photographer’s obsession with his model. Moss was his girlfriend at the time but the relationship did not survive.

All of these ads are edgy. “You walk a fine line, especially in advertising,” Calvin Klein admitted, “if you try and do something sensual.” Sometimes I find them more disturbing than, say, Tom Ford’s quite sexually explicit ads for his perfumes.

Further reading: Now Smell This and Non Blonde
FragranceNet has $10/15ml before Coupon
My Perfume Samples has $2/ml

A lot of people have memories of Obsession, good and bad. What are yours?

‘Til next time, have fun!

Anne-Marie xx

14 comments on “Obsession by Jean Guichard for Calvin Klein 1985

  1. australianperfumejunkies says:

    You have inspired my choice of fragrance for the evening Anne-Marie. I’m about to drench myself in vintage Obsession.
    Wish me luck,
    Portia xx

  2. Jillie says:

    And of course in “Frasier”, love-lorn Niles was always surreptitiously trying to sniff Daphne’s hair which she sprayed with Obsession!

  3. poodle says:

    I bought some of this not too long ago. I liked it when it was released but so did everyone else in the world so I never wore it then. I figured now was a good time for me to give it a try. It’s damp and rainy today so perhaps it’ll be my scent of the day.

  4. Azar says:

    Hi Anne-Maire,
    I have the old, flat kidney shaped bottle down in storage. You have inspired me to pull it out.
    I have heard that the latest edition of Obsession is quite good?
    Azar xx

    • annemariec says:

      I have a small kidney bottle too, so I have smelled an older iteration. I think some people find the opening of the newer stuff a bit sharp compared to vintage. But I like it that way. Admittedly the vintage may be even richer – more mellow – than the old.

  5. Kandice says:

    I wore Obsession back in the day and loved it. I haven’t tried it recently because I’ve been afraid it wouldn’t live up to my memory of it. I’d also be interested in hearing how the vintage and current version compare.

    • annemariec says:

      You may be disappointed then. I’ve heard people say they find the newer version sharp and thin, especially at opening. Sometimes I take a dab of the older version in the evenings, as it is maybe a bit less demanding than the new version. I can understand your reluctance to try the new stuff, if you loved the old.

  6. Fazal Cheema says:

    think how many gems came in 80s and some in 90s too…in this century, my signature Helmut Lang Cuiron came but the only fragrance that deserves to be a classic in the future is Dior Homme ….. and we have to thank Hedi Slimane for that..if he were not at Dior, I doubt we would have seen something like this..this is why we need truly avant garde creative directors at design houses..Slimane and before him Tom Ford showed us what it is like to be Avant Garde

    • annemariec says:

      What disappoints me is that great, innovative fragrances were everywhere in the standard department stores once. Now you have to pay niche prices and scour the internet to find creativity and daring.

      • Fazal Cheema says:

        exactly..but I am also disappointed in niche offerings now..they have basically embraced the marketing spirit of designers..one focuses on volume and other focuses on high profit margins since they cant enjoy the volume of designers…only few are daring now such as Taur, ELDO..even Amouage is losing its DNA

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